How to design a board game prototype

How to design a board game prototype

boardgame prototype design sample

I received a call from an old friend last week. Jack. He told me about a new project he was working on with some friends and family from New York. I could hear the passion and excitement in Jack’s voice. I immediately told him how great of an idea he had. I didn’t really understand the idea in full at this point, but I know how difficult it can be to explain a new business idea with the risk of being judged or told the idea is no good.

Please note: I am still finishing up this project. You may notice a typo or two (or three). I will also add the approved design deliverables upon project completion.

Board game prototype design

After a few minutes, I did actually understand the overall concept of the game. Interestingly enough, it was, in fact, a solid idea for a board game. Jack was even more excited once he knew I was into it. He said his team was at a point when they needed help bringing the idea into a physical prototype. They want to manufacture about 50 individual sets of the game for the first run. I had questions about validation, customer feedback, and why they wanted this or that a certain way. I ended up stepping back a bit from that role, though. They seem to already be playing the game with one another and their circles so running any customer tests or an idea validation MVP do not appear to be necessary. I could be wrong, but they aren’t paying me to run tests. They are paying me to build and design a board game for their team to give away for the holidays.

I have to admit, I have never even thought of building or designing my own board game let alone being paid by someone else to build one. However, I was confident enough in my current skill level to take on the project. Seemed like a lot of fun, and it would be cool to catch up with Jack as well.

A few days after we spoke about the board game I began to question whether it was an actual project Jack was ready to build and had funding to pay me with, or if we was just going off on a random idea spark that had hit him randomly.

Well, he showed up to my apartment this morning. Brief case in hand. I busted out the whiteboard and he took me through the basic nature of the board game. We are under a tight deadline for the project. It will be about a three day sprint for me.

Jack and his team didn’t have much to get me started. I emailed him a list of questions I needed answers for, and he sent me the list of game rules, object of the game, and design deliverables. It was difficult for me to get started because there is no previous version of this board game. It is not as if I am redesigning a website, or helping a new business owner launch a website using photos and videos. I need to create each feature of the board game from scratch. Out of thin air. This type of creative strain requires extreme seclusion and focus. I usually do my work at Starbucks on my laptop, but while there today I almost threw my iced tea at this annoying teenager’s face. These young kids come into Starbucks after school and get all hopped up on caffeine. It is no good. Where are their parents? ANYWAY…

I spent the first hour or two researching online. What are the dimensions of board games? Are there standard dimensions? What effects the cost of manufacturing a board game? I began to sketch some ideas on paper, however, for some reason the sketch process was not working for this project. I think I still need to understand more about the small details of the game. I need to be immersed in the game so I can learn about each little feature and piece I must create. Jack and I plan to play today when he gets here for the next sprint.

To make the most of my time on the first design sprint I decided to start with the branding, identity, and some sample logo ideas.

Board game box cover design

Here is a design of the name of the company who is making the board game that can be used on top of the board game box cover.

board game box design

Game chips bag badge

The next design is a badge that can be printed on the bag that holds tiles required for game play.

board game badge design

Board game iconic logo

The next design is an example of an icon that can be used to stamp the logo throughout different places. I’m not sure how I feel about this design, but I wanted to put a first draft of something together so Jack and his team have a starting point of giving me feedback. It is a lot easier to mold a design if we have an actual design to start with.

board game badge design board game logo board game logo 2

Paper and pencil sketch

As I mentioned above, after about an hour of working on the sketch I realized this was not going to be the best approach for this project. I need to build each piece of the game one at a time before I can visualize the whole thing come together. Usually, my sketches are helpful stepping stones towards completing a project. However, I learned a lesson during this project. That is, just because something works for one thing doesn’t mean it’s also going to work for another. In other words, just because I have success sketching out the user experience of my websites does not mean I will have that success when sketching out a board game.

board game sketch

Board game website

One of the design deliverables on my list is a simple one-page website. I implemented my usual workflow for this piece of the project. I sketched out on paper a simple “coming soon” page. Listed the assets I would need to design the sketch in Photoshop. Then, I designed the first draft in Photoshop, and submitted to the client for review.

Note: click on the image below to view the image in full size.

board game website